Don’t go to extremes restoring your deck

Experts suggest keeping the sanding, staining and installation process simple

BRIAN BAKER/TOWN CRIER DAN AND THE CALICO PORCH: Davisviller Dan Pero shows off the peeling paint on the deck of his new home.
DAN AND THE CALICO PORCH: Davisviller Dan Pero shows off the peeling paint on the deck of his new home.

Davisville resident Dan Pero has just moved into a new home, and he’s noticed his deck, and the neighbouring sunroom need a little bit of work.

The first-time homebuyer scans the peeling paint of his deck, the faded cedar siding of the sunroom, and the foot gap around — the perfect invitation for skunks and raccoons to lodge for the winter.

Pero is grappling with how to restore the deck, and ensure its functionality for a few more years, while also making sure he avoids unwanted guests.

“What I need to do is powerwash the whole thing, strip off all the paint and then I’m undecided whether I should repaint it,” the 33-year-old suggests.

There’s a laundry list of repairs Pero has to address, including fixing the gas line, revamping the upstairs bathroom, and tending to the deck and sunroom. He plans to start the deck maintenance by powerwashing, but a few professionals warn against it, suggesting a switch to other materials like PVC or composite.

He says he wants to limit the damage to his pocketbook, and still maintain the wood.

“I need to see what it looks like, and decide whether I’m going to do a light stain and seal it, or paint it,” he said of the deck. “If you look at it from the ground level there are just chunks coming off of it at the ground level that are just peeling right off.”

Fresh coat of paint for your deck

To get answers Pero can head to a local paint or decorating centre, where he can learn the best options for sealing, staining and painting.

One choice is Benjamin Moore’s Arbor Coat, which comes in oil- and latex-based options. It comes in solid, semi-solid, transparent and translucent opaque finishes.

“Whenever you have a deck situation, you have snow sitting on it in the winter, and you have to shovel it, and that can shorten the life of things,” says Bill Gerbasi, manager of Upper Canada Decorating on Yonge Street. “The longest coatings are the ones that penetrate.”

Of course, the best penetrating paint or stain is oil-based, Gerbasi adds. It penetrates the grain, and helps fight off harmful UV rays.

Still, when it comes to a deck that’s southern facing, there is still a lot of maintenance required with wood.

Gerbasi also warns against powerwashing a deck. It may be quicker, but what’s really happening is the surface of the wood is being stripped, leading to a shorter lifespan for your deck.

“What you’ve got after you do it is a lot of water left in the grain of the wood, and you’ve got a very fuzzy surface that ultimately needs to be sanded,” he says, adding the best preparation for deck maintenance is sanding. “It’s a little bit slower as a process. You take off the minimal amount of dead fibre that way, and you open the grain of the wood up.”

Open grain means the stain or paint will settle in nicely, protecting your wood.

Tools required for the initial process include 80-grit sandpaper, a sandpaper pole and a whole lot of elbow grease. Prepare to roll up those sleeves.

Start your deck from scratch?

Sometimes the best way to maintain a deck is to start from the beginning, says project manager Daryl Ellis at Toronto Custom Decks.

Wood is still requested for deck construction, but the recent trend is towards PVC and composite. It offers a 25-year warranty, and the amount of cleanup is wiping spills and ensuring leaves don’t breakdown on its surface.

Still, if it’s pressure treated wood you want, or have, there will be some maintenance after the honeymoon is over.

“Over time the wood’s going to crack, splinter, fade and at that point if you want to seal it and stain it, that’s what you’re going to have to do,” Ellis says.

The obstacle with switching from a wood deck to PVC is that you can’t replace the boards. If you’re building to code, the joists for PVC need to be 12-inches on centre, as opposed to the 16-inches with wood.

Finally, when it comes to dealing with nature’s unruly tenants — squirrels, raccoons, skunks and whatever other mammal with an overbite comes your way, lattices do work, but Ellis offers up something a little more fool-proof: Chicken wire.

“Your best bet for animal proofing, depending on the height of the deck, is to completely enclose that frame and run that siding right to the ground,” Ellis says. “Some people will even dig a trench and tack on a chicken wire, and bury that 10 to 12 inches under the ground.”

Regardless of the suggestions, there’s no avoiding some maintenance for your decks. The Canadian climate can be cruel to decks, all the more reason to keep up-to-date on new trends.

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